The Forecast- Giants vs Bears

I have never been someone who blames anyone but players for a loss. When a team only scores 18 points at home, it’s going to be tough to win. It’s also a pretty good guess to assume that the players were responsible. It was no different on Sunday. There was a lack of execution. The first four drives had results of 3rd and 17, lost fumble, 3rd and 18, and 3rd and 17. However, this loss is solely on Marc Trestman and Mel Tucker. Hear me out.

—Trestman had a chance to use a timeout and save almost 30 seconds before the second quarter ended. Instead, he chose not to. In hindsight, that was a dumb call, because his offense got the ball into New Orleans’ territory and settled with a long, but not long enough, completion. With another handful of seconds, that situation might have resulted in an easy field goal for Robbie Gould.
—Trestman then went on to use several minutes of the third and fourth quarter with run play after run play and no sense of urgency in between those calls.
—That brings me to my next point—I said on Sunday that the Bears had to run the ball a lot with Matt Forte. The fact that he was only given four fucking carries in the first half is inexcusable on the part of Trestman. I know they only went for a total of 10 yards, but against a bad run defense like that, they should have continued to put pressure on them. That would have also made it tough for Rob Ryan to dial up blitzes.
—Mel Tucker’s defense continues to get zero pressure on the quarterback. I know it seems odd after a game where they accumulated a few sacks. There were a few knockdowns of Drew Brees as well, but someone could have told me that Julius Peppers didn’t play and I might have believed them. He’s having his worst year of his career by far. Shea McClellin does nothing out there. Corey Wootton is mediocre. The former could have an excuse for age, but Tucker was supposed to help the last two get to the next level, and right now, they’re doing a lot of nothing. David Bass was the Bears’ best DE on Sunday. That’s embarrassing.
—Lance Briggs had a stupid play in the fourth quarter where he jumped offsides. I have never seen Briggs do something so stupid in my life. It makes me wonder if Briggs is tuning out his new coaches.
—Tucker’s defense also continues to not get their hands up on passes. That might be the only way they could have stopped Drew Brees and his short passes. Peppers talked last week how they wouldn’t change their scheme, but against a smaller quarterback like Brees, they would have to get their hands up to disrupt his vision and tip a few throws. They didn’t, and maybe that’s on the players, but again, there was none of this in the last several years.

These things can be fixed (except for the McClellin thing. He’s just bad). It helps that the next opponent is the New York Giants. The Giants are 0-5; if the draft was today, they would have the #1 overall pick. They can’t protect Eli Manning (fifth worst in the NFL) or get to the opponent’s quarterback (second to last in the NFL). They’re badly injured; their best defensive player, Jason Pierre-Paul, had offseason surgery and now only has one sack in 2013. Their best signing this offseason was TE Brandon Myers. Myers had 79 catches last year for Oakland, but this year, he only has five. The Giants are averaging a 36-16 defeat each week. They turn the ball over about 4 times every game. They have no run game, and offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride admitted how tough it will be in the weeks ahead with Brandon Jacobs running the ball. Hell, New York is even dead last in the league in net punting. Nothing is going right for New York right now. This is a game that the Bears should win.

College Football Recap
N/A

Weather
It should be a beautiful night for football. Temperatures will be in the low 60’s at kick-off.

Injury report
The Bears’ defensive line took another hit. Nate Collins, like Henry Melton, tore his ACL and is done for the remainder of the season. Joe Anderson (knee), Eben Britton (foot), Jermon Bushrod (calf), and Alshon Jeffery (ankle) are good to go tonight. Martellus Bennett (knee), Lance Briggs (hip), and Charles Tillman (knee/groin) are questionable, but I expect all three to suit up. Nobody saw Stephen Paea (toe) not playing on Sunday against New Orleans, but he indeed was inactive. He will be questionable again tonight. Anthony Walters (hamstring) will be out for the second straight week. The Giants are devastated. Chris Snee, a 3x All-Pro guard, is out for the year (hip) as are CB Aaron Ross (back) and FB Henry Hynoski (shoulder). LS Zak DeOssie (back), S Cooper Taylor, DT Linval Joseph (ankle/knee), TE Adrien Robinson (foot), TE Brandon Myers (ankle), CB Terrell Thomas (knee), and DT Linval Joseph (ankle/knee), WR Louis Murphy (ankle) all are probable while DE Damontre Moore (hamstring) is doubtful. CB Corey Webster (groin), C David Baas (neck), CB Jayron Hosley (hamstring), and RB David Wilson (neck) are all out.

Did you know?
The Giants have 20 turnovers this year through five games. Last year, they had 21 for the season.

NFL Predictions
For this weekend, I like the Saints over the Patriots, Steelers over the Jets, Vikings over the Panthers, Colts over the Chargers, and in an upset, the Ravens over the Packers. (15-11 on the year)

Players to Watch
Victor Cruz- Right now, Victor Cruz is New York’s only actual weapon. Eli Manning is struggling this year with 13 interceptions (thanks to his horrendous offensive line). David Wilson fumbles a lot but won’t play anyway. Hakeem Nicks had a great start to his career but has missed games due to injury the past two years and only has 21 catches this season. Brandon Myers, as I mentioned earlier, is really bad. Cruz has to be dominant each and every week to give the Giants a chance.

Trumaine McBride- Trumaine McBride has been on 4 teams in 6 years, including the Bears. Going into this season, he was going to primarily be a special teams player for the Giants. Now, he’s starting. McBride gave up a long touchdown last week. He has zero interceptions this year. He’s a guy who the Bears can heavily exploit, and it doesn’t matter who he is guarding. With Hosley and Webster out, he will see the field a lot tonight, and that isn’t good news for New York.

Brandon Marshall- Brandon Marshall complained after Sunday’s game, but of course everyone is making it a bigger deal than it really is. The Bears have lost two straight games, and Marshall hasn’t been able to make a big impact in either game. Understandably, he said he is frustrated. Shortly after Marshall said this, Trestman said he has to do a better job of getting him involved. The Giants have given up 288 and 299 passing yards in their last two games. They’re 22nd in football in that category but 4th in run defense. In other words, the Bears will throw a lot tonight, and so I expect Marshall to catch at least 7 passes.

The Forecast
Anyone can now see that the Giants have a lot of injuries. They seemingly love to give the ball to the other team. Their two best players are doing nothing. Tom Coughlin sounds like a defeated man in every conference call and interview that he does. The Bears know that they have to win this game with a brutal schedule coming up—at Washington, at Green Bay, Detroit, and Baltimore. Fortunately for Chicago, whenever a team goes on the road to play a Thursday Night game, it’s extremely difficult for them. Two days of preparation and then a flight to another city is too much. It doesn’t help that the Giants are just horrible right now. Bears 30-16. (4-1 on the year)

-Brian Ociepka (@bjociepka1)

The Forecast- Saints vs Bears

So much for that whole “on pace for” line I wrote last week for Jay Cutler, huh? Cutler played horribly last week in Detroit. He threw three interceptions, two of which are pathetic throws, and lost a fumble that Nick Fairley ran in for six points. It wasn’t all on Cutler, though. Alshon Jeffery has a solid game on paper but dropped two touchdowns, one that he followed up with a touchdown catch. Martellus Bennett dropped one as well. Kyle Long and Jordan Mills had rough games, which notches the third straight one for Mills. Adam Podlesh was atrocious once again; he’s now 26th in net punting and 28th in punt average. According to Pro Football Focus, he’s the worst punter in football. I wanted the Bears to draft a punter in the 6th or 7th round this year, but they didn’t. Apparently, they wanted Cornelius Washington and Marquess Wilson instead. They brought in a bunch of veterans this week for tryouts, but none of them were signed. Hopefully that was a wake up call for Podlesh.

The Lions were pretty good on Sunday, though. Cutler’s first interception was an awesome play by Louis Delmas. Ndamukong Suh is working his way toward Defensive Player of the Year honors. Brandon Pettigrew is finally not dropping everything thrown his way. Right now, they are definitely a contender in the NFC North.

It doesn’t get easier today. The Saints are coming off a game where they obliterated the Dolphins, and they are now 4-0 on the year. They have weapons all over the field, and with Sean Payton back, they are a serious threat in the NFC. The Saints have holes, but what team doesn’t? Luckily for Chicago, one of their biggest weaknesses is the inability to take their high-powered offense on the road. Since 2010, the Saints are just 14-10 on the road. That doesn’t seem too bad, but their record at home is far better during that span at home. Their biggest weakness is their offensive line. Jermon Bushrod left for the Bears as did Aaron Kromer, and now the Saints are tied for 11th worst in the league with 12 sacks given up. It’s hard to throw from your back, and the Bears have a chance to pummel Drew Brees today. All in all, the Bears have to tackle better. They have to take care of the football. They have to hit Drew Brees. They have to continue to force turnovers. Can they do all of that against a great team?

College Football Recap
USC finally fired Lane Kiffin! There is a god! Chris Petersen and Charlie Strong should be their first two calls.

Ohio State won again against scrappy Northwestern. Unfortunately, Northwestern was highly overrated coming into the game. They kept it close throughout. This is exactly why I think Pat Fitzgerald needs to stay in Evanston. I’m not so sure if he could recruit the best guys in Texas, Florida, or California. He will probably leave one of these days due to a big raise, but I can’t see him being very successful at a big football school.

For weeks, I’ve been tooting Teddy Bridgewater’s Heisman horn. I think there’s a new leader for the trophy. Jameis Winston has had an unbelievable year. He has accounted for 19 total touchdowns already and has only thrown two interceptions. His team is 6-0 and hasn’t scored under 41 points in a game yet. Bridgewater is great, but Winston has the upper hand due to the publicity of playing at Florida State and because of the competition.

Weather
The temperature should be right around 60 degrees today at kick-off after some showers during the night and early morning.

Injury Report
The Bears had quite a few players show up on the injury report this week: Stephen Paea (toe), Brandon Marshall (foot), Anthony Walters (hamstring), Charles Tillman (groin), Sherrick McManis (quad), Julius Peppers (chest), and Martellus Bennett (shoulder). Paea and Tillman are questionable, but they will both play. Walters is the only one who will not suit up. For New Orleans, S Roman Harper, RB Mark Ingram, WR Lance Moore, DT Tyrunn Walker, and DT Brodrick Bunkley are all out for today’s contest. That’s a lot of depth missing in the middle of that already weak run defense.

Did you know?
Jay Cutler has thrown 3 or more interceptions in a game seven different times. In the games following those travesties, his teams have a record of 6-1.

NFL Predictions
Last week was better. I made a little bit of progress. I like the Seahawks to get by the Colts, Broncos to smash the Cowboys, 49ers to top the Texans, Chiefs to beat the Titans, Ravens to upset the Dolphins, and the Packers to clobber the Lions. (11-10 on the year)

Players to Watch
Cameron Jordan- Cameron Jordan was selected by New Orleans in the first round of the 2011 draft out of California. In his rookie year, he was a big disappointment after notching only one sack. Jordan turned it around last season, sacking the quarterback eight times and forcing three fumbles. This year, he’s tied for 7th in the NFL with 4 sacks already, and the Saints’ defense is giving up less than 14 points per game. Defensive ends haven’t really given the Bears issues yet. For the most part, they held Carlos Dunlap, Michael Johnson, Jared Allen, Brett Kiesel, and Ziggy Ansah in check, but Jordan has been dominant thus far, and Jermon Bushrod has to do a good job against him today.

Jimmy Graham- For my money, Jimmy Graham is the best tight end in football. He’s so athletic, so fast, and so explosive. Graham has even improved his blocking. From week 2-4, he has 413 yards, and that is the most by a tight end during a three game span ever. Last week, he dominated Miami, including a highlight reel touchdown catch in between three Dolphins’ defenders. Drew Brees loves throwing the ball to Graham, and why wouldn’t he? He’s going to be a focal point in the New Orleans offense today, and I’m sure Mel Tucker game planned for him all week.

Matt Forte- Matt Forte has been great through four weeks. He’s caught everything thrown his way and is hitting the hole better than he ever has. Forte is the NFL’s fifth leading rusher to this point. Today, he has to do more of the same. I expect the Saints’ defense, led by Rob Ryan, is going to give Jay Cutler fits today. Ryan’s defense is fourth in the NFL in pass defense. However, they are dead last against the run, giving up 5.5 yards per carry. On Cutler’s weekly radio show on ESPN 1000, he said that they are trying to ease Forte’s run touches this year so he can stay fresh throughout the fall and winter, hence the amount of passes he’s received. Today might be the exception; I expect Forte to get a lot of carries.

The Forecast
Similar to week one, this game can go either way. Both teams have a lot of talent and both are going to have good seasons. The biggest key to the game is Jimmy Graham against the Bears’ secondary. While on paper it looks like it will be James Anderson’s duty to stop him, nobody is dumb enough to think Anderson’s going to somehow shadow Graham around the field. Graham runs like a wide receiver and is sometimes lined up as one. It will be a collective effort by the back-7 of Chicago. I think they are up for it. This is a veteran group with good players, except Chris Conte, and they despite being consistently put into awful positions last week in Detroit, they can’t be happy with giving up 40 points. Once again, don’t underestimate home field advantage. The Saints almost lost earlier this year against the pathetic Buccaneers in Tampa Bay. Bears 27-26. (4-0 on the year).

-Brian Ociepka (@bjociepka1)

Saints at Bears 2013

Matt Forte Against New OrleansI definitely have more concerns about Saints at Bears 2013 than I have confidence in the Bears winning. So the most direct thing I can write this week is: is there anyone out there that feels strongly in the Bears winning this game?

One thing is certain, if the Bears do beat the Saints, it will be a gigantic “prove it” moment for the Chicago Bears. This would be much greater than the Bears’ biggest success so far in 2013, which has been beating the Cincinnati Bengals opening day. The Bengals have been off-and-on, while the Saints are legitimately within the best teams in the NFC and NFL.

New Orleans’ defense has rebounded to be ranked in the top-10 in all categories so far this season, yet I think the Bears can have some degree of success against the Saints’ defense. What concerns me is the Bears’ defense being able to stop the juggernaut that is the Saints offense. Given that the Bears have been weak in generating a pass rush and stopping the run, I don’t know how likely the Bears are to successfully stop the Saints offense.

The only clear things going for the Bears are the location of the game, and the fact that the Bears haven’t lost to the Saints outside of New Orleans since 2002. The greatest hope would be that the Saints have an off day, in my opinion.

Bears at Lions 2013: 3 Down 3 Up

Wow, as exciting as the 3-0 start was, this game was as disappointing. I’m not a statistician and don’t have a database of every Bears game in my brain. But I’m betting that the Bears have never scored 40 points in one week, then given up 40 in the next. What a bummer.

I also am quite certain that Robbie Gould has never converted an onside kick. As goofy and less accurate as Paul Edinger was, he was slick on onside kicks.

Three Down

- After three weeks of the best football in his career, Jay Cutler regressed in a big way. Obviously he was under much greater duress that he had been in the season’s first three weeks, given the quality of the Lions’ defensive line. But as he admitted, he did not execute on the throws that were intercepted. You could see him pressing once he dug the Bears into a hole. I am not off the Cutler bandwagon and never have been, since I have witnessed so many years of Bears quarterback futility. But it does show that the Bears’ fortunes are tied to, and led by, Cutler.

- Other than the play on which Julius Peppers forced the fumble, the Bears pass rush was absent for a fourth straight week. The alarm bells are ringing loud and clear.

- We can now be pretty certain that the Bears had better not put themselves in the situation of needing onside kicks to win.

Three Ups: Can I find three?

- Even when Matt Forte wasn’t given room to run, he still made positive yardage by squeaking through the Lions’ dominant front. He has consistently ripped off positive runs. Forte is playing extremely well.

- I thought the Bears did an admirable job of holding Calvin Johnson in check, especially given the fact that Charles Tillman had to miss much of the game resting injuries.

- As poor as the Bears defense looked, remember that Cutler’s interceptions and fumble were responsible for at least 13 and possibly 17 points. This week the offense put the defense in poor situation after situation.

Adversity is here. The undefeated Saints are coming into town. We will see what the Bears are made of in less than a week.

The Forecast- Bears vs Lions

When a team begins a game winning 17-0 in a tough environment, it seems like nothing can go wrong. After Michael Bush’s touchdown, I thought the game was over. In hindsight, I wasn’t actually wrong, but the game got very interesting in the 3rd quarter. The Bears offense hit a wall and went into the vanilla chapter of their playbook. Fortunately, the Bears’ defense had another great game. D.J. Williams had two sacks, Julius Peppers had 5 hurries including a touchdown thanks to a fumble forced by Lance Briggs, and Major Wright had his 3rd interception for a touchdown in three seasons. In the end, the Bears put up 40 points, the most an opposing team has scored at Heinz Field since 1999.

I want to go back to the offense here, because this Marc Trestman-Jay Cutler relationship is becoming more fun by the week. In my last article before the season began, I said that this had to work. There was no “sort of” or “kind of.” It had to work, and it is. Cutler’s offense started out quick against Pittsburgh, which included Cutler completing eight of his first ten passes and getting three points on the board immediately. But again, it stalled with the snap of a finger, until the 4th quarter came around. First, Cutler took off on 3rd and 12 and completely fucked up Robert Golden for a gain of 14. Then, he rifled a 41-yard pass to Brandon Marshall on another 3rd down. On the last 3rd down of the drive, staring another measly field goal right in the face, Cutler lofted a perfect pass to Earl Bennett, ending the drive with a touchdown and the Steelers’ hopes of accomplishing anything this season. That was one of the most impressive drives of Cutler’s career in Chicago, and anyone who saw that sequence coming is totally full of themselves. Cutler is on pace right now to throw for 32 touchdowns, complete 68 percent of his passes, and only get sacked 16 times.

Now, the Bears have to put that massacre behind them and head to grotesque and uninviting Detroit to take on a group of criminals led by the world’s biggest moron, Jim Schwartz. Like the Bears, the Lions are coming off of a road win against the underachieving Redskins. The Lions have a dominant defensive line, but they have to. Without Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, and the rest of delinquents up front, the Lions would be in deep shit. Detroit has never had a good secondary, and that pathetic group would be even more under the microscope if they didn’t have a front-4 who can get to the quarterback at will and a high powered offense, now with a shiny new toy who goes by the name Reggie Bush. Once again, the Bears’ offensive line will be heavily tested. With the schedule after today’s contest reading New Orleans, New York, Washington, and Green Bay (two of which are on the road), getting to four wins would be great.

College Football Recap
Right now, there are four great teams in college football: Alabama, Oregon, Stanford, and Ohio State. Clemson is a very good team, but they also always seem to lose a game that they shouldn’t, and they still have to play Florida State and South Carolina. However, with D’Anthony Thomas’ gruesome looking ankle injury last night, that may be too much for Oregon to overcome in the long run.

So, USC once paid Reggie Bush. Penn State once employed a child predator and covered up his multiple molestations. Apparently, the NCAA believes that the USC situation is worse. Look, USC should be able to recruit regardless, but at the moment, they have less scholarships to offer than every other university. A week ago, Penn State was in that same boat. Now, they’re not. I couldn’t care less about some stupid Big-10 school in stupid Pennsylvania, but how is giving a player cool things worse than dozens of children having their youth and entire lives ruined by a sick man? Before I get myself in trouble, I will shut up, but the NCAA is a damn joke.

Notre Dame lost, though. Isn’t that terrific?

Weather
Dome

Injury report
As we all know by now, Henry Melton (knee) is out for the remainder of the season. Melton wasn’t playing close to the bar he set last year in terms of getting to the quarterback, but the run defense was significantly better with Melton in the game. I expect Charles Tillman to suit up today (groin), but I don’t expect the same of Sherrick McManis (quad). Zack Bowman will play (knee). Like Melton, Lions DE Jason Jones (knee) is out for the year. Also for Detroit, WR Patrick Edwards (ankle) probably won’t play. DE Ziggy Ansah (abdomen), OT Jason Fox (groin), and OT Corey Hilliard (groin) are questionable, but each of them practiced on Friday. The following clowns will play: Ndamukong Suh (knee), CB Chris Houston (hand), OG Rob Sims (shoulder), WR Calvin Johnson (knee), LB DeAndre Levy (abdomen), OT Don Carey (hamstring), LB Ashlee Palmer (ankle), and RB Reggie Bush (knee). Nate Burleson is out for awhile after breaking his arm in a car accident this week.

Did you know?
Since 1990, 114 teams have started 3-0. Of those teams, 86 made the playoffs (75.4%).

NFL Predictions
I had a subtle brag last week about how well it was going for me so far through two weeks with my around-the-league predictions. Well, last week, I went an embarrassing 0-5. It doesn’t help when being reminded of it by a friend right in the middle of the day. Let’s turn it around today. I’m going with New Orleans over Miami, Atlanta over New England, Houston over Seattle, Kansas City over the Giants, and Pittsburgh over Minnesota in London. (9-7 on the season)

Players to Watch
Nick Fairley- Ndamukong Suh is always a guy to watch, because nobody knows for sure when he might have a big hit or when he might try to commit murder. Like Suh, Nick Fairley is a giant prick, but he has turned himself into one of the better defensive tackles in football. It helps that he has Ndamukong Suh next to him, which opens up a lot of one-on-one room for Fairley. Run defense has become Fairley’s specialty. The Lions are 29th against the run through three weeks, but most of those are not right at Suh and Fairley. Look for the Bears to try what others teams have and run sweeps and counters away from the middle of that defense in attempt to minimize their impact on the game.

Reggie Bush- Nobody saw Reggie Bush being selected after Mario Williams in the 2006 draft, but he was. Houston didn’t believe Bush was an every down RB, and it’s taken a third team to finally believe that he is. Bush was primarily used in New Orleans as a returner and primarily in Miami as a change-of-pace back. But now in Detroit, they’re giving him every opportunity to touch the ball 20-30 times every game, and after the first two games, it’s easy to see why. He’s never going to lead the league in rushing, but he sure does give the Lions’ offense a dimension that they haven’t had since they drafted Matthew Stafford. I expect the Lions to use Joique Bell quite a bit today, but Bush will get his touches as well.

Chris Conte- It’s hard, on a day like this, to rant on both safeties. After all, Major Wright did have a forced fumble and an interception for a touchdown seven days ago. But Chris Conte is really struggling this season. On every deep throw, it seems like Conte is a step behind. He’s a safety for a reason. Ben Roethlisberger was one more pump fake away from possibly getting Conte a place on the bench last week. With the Lions’ philosophy of pushing the ball down the field, combined with Reggie Bush getting into the open field quite a bit this year and Charles Tillman dealing with injury, Conte has to have a solid game today.

Nate Collins- Henry Melton wasn’t making a huge impact for the Bears and their pass rush this year, but make no mistake, his ACL tear will have a big effect on this defense. In his spot, Nate Collins will take over. Not that Collins is going to be as good as Melton, but he has shown promise when given an opportunity. As long as he is respectable today and for the rest of the year, the Chicago defense shouldn’t fall off too dramatically.

The Forecast
This is a winnable game for Chicago. Hell, 9/13 ESPN analysts picked the Bears to be victorious today. We all know the Lions well enough to know that they will probably do something that’s really fucking stupid to greatly contribute to a loss. Jim Schwartz will probably be the ring leader of that. But the Bears are going to have a mighty tough time today dealing with the size of the Lions offense. Brandon Pettigrew, Calvin Johnson, Joseph Fauria, and Kris Durham are all 6’5 or taller. To compliment this, Reggie Bush is fast as hell on turf. Tillman isn’t 100 percent, and Conte’s had a rough go of it to start the year. Lions 37-35. (3-0 on the year)

-Brian Ociepka (@bjociepka1)

Friday Five: Bears at Lions 2013

- I get the feeling this is a very different Detroit Lions team the Bears will be facing this Sunday. Different from the Lions teams the Bears have beaten eight of the last nine times the teams have met. Detroit has a powerful offense, especially if Reggie Bush is playing, which he should. More surprisingly, this year the defense appears to be putting it together. Making up for mediocre talent at linebacker and in the secondary is their ferocious defensive line, featuring three former first-round draft picks. If I had a choice, I’d certainly take the days when the Lions blew first round picks on bad receivers in successive drafts (Charles Rogers, Roy Williams, Mike Williams).

- That being said, there is no reason why the Bears should lose this game. The biggest question mark Sunday for the Bears will be the health of Charles Tillman, who has held Lions receiver Calvin Johnson in check better than any corner in the NFL. If Tillman is unable to play due to his sore knee, the task will be delegated to Zack Bowman, a journeyman special teams player. And guess what-Bowman is fighting an injury as well.

- If there was a game so far in 2013 in which Chicago’s pass rush needs to come from its four linemen, it is this game. The starting four of Julius Peppers, Stephen Paea, Henry Melton and Corey Wooton have two sacks. Bears linebackers have three. If Chicago relies on the blitz as heavily as they did against the Steelers last week, I’m afraid the results will not be pretty. And as we know, now Melton is lost for the season and has been replaced by Nick Collins. Here’s hoping Collins is everything the team has been saying he is.

- Especially in the beginning of the Steelers game, the Bears were able to march down the field by relying on quick west coast-style passes. I think in order to be successful against the Lions, the Bears will have to execute the short game to nullify the Detroit pass rush.

- I think the Bears should beat the Lions-if their defense performs to the level they’re capable of. If they get no pass rush on Matthew Stafford, let Reggie Bush run wild and/or whatever corner is playing cannot contain Megatron, we could see an unhappy ending. To a surprising opponent.

Bears-Steelers 2013: 3 Up 3 Down

1. The Bears almost unraveled at Pittsburgh, building a 24-3 lead then regressing to a score of 27-24. In my opinion, the key to the victory was the fact the Bears opened aggressively and built the 17-0 lead. We are at the beginning of a long road, early in the 2013 Chicago Bears season, so major adversity will undoubtedly be faced. But as of now, looking at the 3-0 record, I am ecstatic to see this team with its first real offense and the ability to score points when needed that I’ve seen in my lifetime.

2. We’ve all heard of the complexity of Steeler defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau‘s unit, and I finally have appreciation for that after watching the game. Obviously the Bears’ offensive coaches did a fantastic job of scheming properly, and the Bears offensive players executed.

3. Watched an interview with Bears quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh early on Sunday morning. I have to admit that I had a distaste for Cavanaugh when I heard he was joining the Bears staff again in 2013. Nothing personal, but everyone that was associated with the Dave Wannstedt era made me ill (Cavanaugh was the Bears’ offensive coordinator under Wannstedt in 1997 and 1998-two 4-12 seasons). However, after watching him and the progress Jay Cutler seems to have made, I like this guy.

1. At this point I do have complete faith in Bears’ head coach Marc Trestman. Trestman explained away his team frittering away their 24-3 lead, saying that in the NFL with a team that is still talented like Pittsburgh, good teams will not sit there and allow that lead to be built. It was very unsettling to see the lead go away, but in the end, the Bears did win.

2. Obviously, the Bears’ pass rush is still a concern after three weeks. At this point, the defensive line has two sacks and the linebackers have three. The Bears blitzed heavily in Pittsburgh, and the heavy rush contributed to the Steelers’ five turnovers. But also many times the rush did not get there, and each time I held my breath as Ben Roethlisberger time and time again found receivers open for huge gains. The blitz worked last Sunday, in the end. But this isn’t going to work consistently through the season. Not to even mention the loss for the season of Pro Bowl defensive tackle Henry Melton. Ouch.

3. The Bears have defeated two 0-3 teams in very precarious fashion. Now they head to Detroit, where I’m not usually nervous, but I am a bit this year. The Lions don’t look quite as weak as they always do. Just another test for Trestman’s players. I’m glad he’s at the helm.

The Forecast- Bears vs Steelers

Another up and down game goes the Bears way. Thinking about it, I can’t remember the last time there was a kick return for a touchdown, an interception for a touchdown, and a fumble return for a touchdown all in the same game. Jay Cutler tried to piss the game away (two interceptions and a fumble) as did Matt Forte (4th quarter fumble), but in the end, Cutler and Martellus Bennett capped off a brilliant game winning drive. Did anyone actually see this coming from Bennett? Obviously, he’s a huge upgrade from Kellen Davis (who had a penalty in his first game for the Seahawks on Sunday, by the way), but there was a lot being made about his attitude and inconsistencies. So far, he’s been nothing short of great. Look for him to continue to play well in the coming weeks.

The Vikings are pretty awful. They had every opportunity to win this game, and instead, Bill Musgrave called a pathetic game when Minnesota was in the red-zone, and for it, Adrian Peterson was understandably upset. On the Vikings last drive, all the Vikings had to do was run three times instead of two. This would have most likely used up all of the time on the clock, or close to it, which would probably have the city of Chicago singing a different tune. It also would have given them a better shot to score on 2nd and goal than a floater to the pylon from Christian Ponder.

The Bears now roll into the Steel City, where they are 2-0 and the Steelers are in unchartered territory at 0-2. The Steelers have a lot of issues. They are old on defense, their douchebag 2x Super Bowl champion quarterback hates his douchebag offensive coordinator, and their injuries continue to pile up. It’s never easy to win on the road, especially against a desperate team. The first road game for Marc Trestman will be a big test indeed.

College Football Recap
That was a shameful Saturday of college football. On paper, the best games were Arizona State vs Stanford and Michigan State vs Notre Dame. It turns out, though, that Michigan vs Connecticut was the best contest of the day. The Wolverines trailed at halftime but squeaked out a 3-point win despite trailing after two quarters.

Teddy Bridgewater continues to put up dazzling numbers. Yesterday, he only threw 22 passes but four went for touchdowns. Again, he continues to be the Heisman front runner to this point in the season.

If anyone missed it, College Gameday brought their excitement to Fargo, North Dakota for North Dakota State against Delaware State. I have watched this show for a lot of years, and I cannot remember a more awesome atmosphere. The fans were into it the whole time, and even though schools like Alabama, Oregon, LSU, Clemson, and so on have unbelievable fan bases, this was different. Everyone there has so much pride for their state and school, and they all seemed like they really cherished and appreciated the publicity.

Weather
Tonight, it will be cloudless skies and temperatures in the 50’s at kick-off. In other words, it will be a perfect night for football.

Injury report
Yet again, Chicago is almost fully healthy. Martellus Bennett (shoulder), Kyle Long (back), and Brandon Marshall (back) will all play. Charles Tillman (knee) is questionable but my guess is that he will play. The Steelers, on the other hand, are in awful shape. Star C Maurkice Pouncey (knee), ILB Larry Foote (biceps), and back-up RB and special teams ace Larod Stephens-Howling (knee) are all out for the year. Rookie RB Le’Veon Bell (foot) is questionable, but I don’t think he will play tonight, either. Rookie OLB Jarvis Jones (heal), DE Brent Keisel (calf), CB Curtis Brown (illness) and DT Steve McClendon (hamstring) should all suit up. All-Pro TE Heath Miller (knee) tore his ACL last year and this will most likely be his first game back. Starting CB Cortez Allen (knee) is out today, leaving a huge void in the Steelers’ already porous defense.

Did you know?
The last time a Bears’ head coach started out his career 3-0 was Neill Armstrong in 1978.

NFL Predictions
I can’t believe it’s already week 3. I’ve had a decent start so far. Let’s continue it today with the Packers over the Bengals, Falcons over the Dolphins, Redskins over the Lions, 49ers over the Colts, and the Giants over the Panthers. (9-2 on the year)

Players to Watch
Antonio Brown- Antonio Brown is really a pretty overrated player, with all things being equal. Of course, he gets a lot of notoriety playing in Pittsburgh, but he’s only played a full season once in his 3+ seasons. He only has 7 career touchdowns as well. However, he and Emmanuel Sanders are the Steelers’ only two true weapons, so the organization gave him a huge $43 million extension last year. Brown is very quick, but their offensive line hasn’t held up in order for Ben Roethlisberger to get him the ball. Starting out 0-2 isn’t exactly common in Western Pennsylvania, and Ed Bouchette from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is reporting that during last week’s loss to Cincinnati, Brown “angrily confronted” offensive coordinator Todd Haley. In cases like these, coordinators then tend to force the ball to the upset player. If they force it too much, the Bears’ corners will make them pay.

Troy Polamalu- Troy Polamalu will go down as one of the best safeties ever. Nobody makes a play more exciting than the former USC standout. He’s so athletic and smart, and no pass is ever safe toward the middle of the field against he and Ryan Clark. Polamalu can intercept a pass, jump over the line and sack the quarterback, and lay out a wide receiver at a moment’s notice. Despite being up there in age and probably not as explosive as he once was, Cutler and Trestman need to know where he is on every play. Polamalu can still take over a game. As a Bears’ fan, you do not want to hear his name called a lot today.

Henry Melton- I keep waiting for the defensive line to have a huge game, and I keep being disappointed. However, the Steelers may have the worst interior offensive line in the NFL. With Pouncey out, that leaves them with Titans’ retread Fernando Velasco at center. Ramon Foster is an average guard and second year player out of Stanford, David Decastro, is at the other guard spot. Henry Melton potentially could have a dominant game. Rumors out of Halas Hall say that his preseason concussion has set him back, and maybe two games has done the trick, but that is a shitty excuse for me. If he wants a contract this upcoming offseason close to the one Geno Atkins received, his needs to step up his game starting tonight.

Kyle Long- The Bears have been dominating the run game running behind Kyle Long, ranking 6th in the NFL so far this year at 5.15 yards per carry behind him. However, Long’s pass blocking has been solid but not spectacular thus far. Of course, it’s hard to be perfect when you’re that raw and it’s hard to be picky, but he will definitely have his work cut out for him tonight. Dick LeBeau and his defense will set up complex schemes and blitzes to confuse Long and Jordan Mills. They have passed their first two tests against a dominating Bengals’ defensive line and a Vikings team with two good defensive ends, but it will be imperative for Long along with Mills to succeed tonight if Chicago wants to be 3-0.

The Forecast
Not that the talent level is even, because it’s not, but this is such a tricky game to predict. The Steelers have made excellence their standard for years. They are arguably the best organization in football, and I know that their team, organization, coaches, and fans won’t stand for starting out 0-3, including two home losses. However, the difference in talent between these two teams is so great that they are going to have to literally pull out all of the stops in this game. Their whole offensive line should allow a sleeping giant in the Bears’ defensive line to explode. Their cornerbacks, especially with Cortez Allen being out, shouldn’t be able to match up with Chicago’s weapons. For Pittsburgh, Roethlisberger has to have a special night against a tough defense if the Steelers want to improve to 1-2. However, for the talent discrepancy alone, I’m going with the road team. Bears 17-16. (2-0 on the year)

-Brian Ociepka (@bjociepka1)

2013 Chicago Bears Friday 5: at Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Chicago Bears have a long history, since the Steelers have been around since 1933. But since the Bears-Steelers game in 1980 was the first I watched, I’ll start there. That year the Bears were coming off a playoff appearance when they entered Three Rivers Stadium to take on the defending world champions. The Bears were 1-1, and promptly were embarrassed 38-3. As a fourth grader I distinctly remember watching the game at my Aunt’s house, and the game getting out of control very early. The teams didn’t play again until 1986 when the Bears won 13-10 in overtime. That game was during a stretch in which the Bears couldn’t score without Jim McMahon. In 1989, Chicago again won 20-0 during a season in which they only won six games total. In 1992, in Mike Singletary‘s last home game, the Bears won one of their only five games that season against the AFC Championship-bound Steelers. To me, that game makes me question whether the 1992 Chicago Bears were as bad as their record, or if the players quit on Mike Ditka.

The 1995 meeting at Soldier Field was also memorable. I remember Bears receiver Curtis Conway dropping multiple passes and that hideous ’95 pass defense giving up conversion after conversion on third down. The Bears lost in overtime after Kevin Butler couldn’t make the winning kick in regulation. In 1998 at Three Rivers, the Bears were overmatched and lost.

The teams didn’t meet again until 2005, in a game which many of us remember. It was the Bears’ first trip to Heinz Field. The Bears were rolling at the time, but with rookie Kyle Orton at quarterback they were bowled over by Jerome Bettis. The Steelers were on the way to a Super Bowl win, and crushed the Bears 21-9 in the bright snowfall.

Finally, in the last meeting between the two teams in 2009, the Bears won 17-14 over the reigning Super Bowl champs. It was Jay Cutler‘s first win as a Bear.

Speaking of Cutler, he’s currently the highest-rated third down passer in the NFL. That’s good to know.

But conversely, the Bears defense is allowing their opponents to convert over 50% of their third-down attempts. Not good.

I’m pretty sure I went on record when he was hired to declare Marc Trestman a fantastic “out of the box” hire by GM Phil Emery. I think we’d be hard pressed to find any Bears fan that isn’t enamored with him at this point. Trestman became just the third coach in the Bears’ 93-year history to start his career with a 2-0 record (George Halas and Neill Armstrong were the others.) But remember, Armstrong started 3-0 and finished 20-24 as a head coach. Just like last week, I think the Bears will win in Pittsburgh and start this season 3-0. But also just like last week, I don’t expect the win to be easy. The Steelers won’t roll over at home and start the season 0-3 easily. But the team has rushed for less than 100 yards in the first two games. This should make them one-dimensional. But the possibility still exists that if the Bears commit mistakes and can’t stop the pass, they could lose.

Finally, Cincinnati Bengals, if you’re as good as you and everyone else thinks you are, please beat Green Bay, will you?

Vikings at Bears 2013: 3 Up 3 Down

I started Sunday morning glad that I didn’t have my tickets for the game, given the steady rain. As the Minnesota Vikings looked to be driving toward a nail-in-the-coffin touchdown with less than five minutes remaining, I was ready to write it off. Then when Martellus Bennett caught the winning touchdown pass from Jay Cutler in a stirring come from behind, one point victory, I wished I had been there through the game, soaked to the bone. Definitely I would rank this game in the top 5 of this decaude, probably high in the top 10 best games since the Mike Ditka era.

Defense stood tall when it counted

Regardless of how the Bears defense bent way too much at times, they have to be commended for keeping the Vikings out of the end zone when it counted. With Minnesota having first and goal on their final possession, I was quite sure the game was lost. But the Bears defense forced a Viking field goal, giving the Bears a shot to win the game with a final touchdown. Which they did.

Once again this is finally a big-boy offense

Unbelievable. The Vikings may be having their problems, but their defense can still be potent. Yet the Bears coaching staff called the right plays, and the players executed when it counted. Maybe I’m just stunned to see a competent Bears offensive team. Could be, but I’m liking it.

While Hester Couldn’t break one, he did everything but

On three kickoff returns, Devin Hester was just not able to get by the last man he needed to beat for touchdowns. Maybe he has lost a step, but his returns kept the Bears in the game as the defense did. Hester’s 249 total kickoff return yards were his best in an illustrious career, and best in Bears history.

Too many mistakes

Certainly the Bears didn’t plan on giving up a touchdown on the opening kickoff, a touchdown return on a fumble, and critical interceptions. So it would be trite to say they did bad in this area. Obviously they did do bad and have to clean up the mistakes, but NFL teams have days like this. On Sunday, luckily the Bears were good enough to overcome the mistakes. It won’t always be that way.

Defense bent too much

Again, the defense stepped up when it counted, and the Bears made some mistakes (fumbles, penalty for too many men on the field) that didn’t put them in a good position to defend. And they did play admirably against Adrian Peterson, keeping him out of the end zone. But they gave up 351 total yards. Again, luckily the offense was able to save this day.

Pass rush again absent

Contributing to Christian Ponder’s ability to have a better game in week one than week two was again a lack of a strong pass rush by the Bears’ front four. There were several plays on which I saw Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker send blitzers, and I had a bad feeling each time Ponder released and found his receiver. The Bears are going to have to address what could be going wrong with the rush, since it remained strong throughout 2012.

Next up are the always-solid Pittsburgh Steelers on the road. Pittsburgh looks like it has many problems this year, so could the Bears steal a game that looked a lot more difficult a few months ago?